How to choose the right boots for your figure

Q. I was wondering about boot height (shaft height, not heel) to body proportions. Should shorter people avoid shorter (mid-calf/ankle) boots? If you are bottom heavy/athletic build, is it better to go with either really short, or really tall boots (eg knee or over-the-knee height)? I have a range of boots that vary in shaft height, and I’ve got thicker legs and find that mid-calf/lower boots make me look shorter/thicker waist down. Is that always the case, or am I just not doing it properly? I tend to wear all these boots with skinny jeans.


A. That is a great question! I’ve touched a little upon choosing the right shaft height for petite women in the past, but here is a more detailed primer on choosing the right boot for your figure. First, a lesson on boot shafts:

Boot shaft: This is the part of the boot that covers your legs.

Shaft height: The height of the shaft is measured from the inside seam of the boot where it meets the sole up to the top of the shaft.

If figure flattery is your primary goal when purchasing a boot, the key is to find a boot that hits just at the top of the fullest part of your calf, leaving a couple of inches between the top of the boot and your knee (depending how tall you are). If your calves are very full, a boot that hits mid-calf will draw attention to the fullest part of your lower leg, while one that hits just at the top of the calf will emphasize the slimmest part of your leg right below your knee. For petite women, a boot shaft that comes right up to your knee will effectively chop your legs in half, making you appear shorter, while a boot that hits an inch or more below your knee will make your legs appear longer.

There are, of course, exceptions to the above rule based on your body shape or boot type (for instance, a petite woman may be able to wear a tall boot shaft if the boot also has high heels, or a woman with full calves may be able to wear a mid-calf boot if she has long legs), but this is a great way to help determine your boot shaft “sweet spot”. To find your sweet spot, measure the length from your instep (the top of the foot, not your arch) to the top of the fullest part of your calf, this will be the shaft height you should aim for.

For ankle boots, a woman with fuller calves, an athletic build, or petite legs should look for low ankle boots that hit below the ankle bone and dip down on the instep for the most flattering look.

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